Altering your lifestyle to be healthier needn't be a huge undertaking. In fact, simple, manageable changes can make a much bigger difference to your overall health and happiness than you might think. Being healthy doesn't require you to kill yourself at the gym everyday nor do you need to become militant in your approach to food. All you need to do is set realistic and attainable goals for yourself, and allow yourself the freedom to break them from time to time!
Step 1. Cut back on TV time.
This is a great step to take if you want to increase your weekly activity levels and get moving. And it needn't mean giving up on watching your favourite TV shows when you come in from work/school. Why not do a rough calculation of how much TV time you rack up a day and try to cut it back by a third? Use the free time to go for a walk, do some cooking, play a bit of sport or catch up on housework - whatever gets you moving! Over time, your evenings will become more productive and your body will thank you too!
Step 2. Get out in nature.
Being in nature has been proven to reduce stress, anxiety and anger and increase positive feelings, leading to an overall sense of physical and emotional wellbeing. To add to the benefits of your walk in the woods or trip to the beach, why not call a friend? Research has shown that people with stronger personal connections are 50% more likely to outlive those who are less socially active. Time to get on the hiking boots and head to Glendalough!
Step 3. Take time to reflect on the good things in your life.
What are you thankful for? Taking time to focus your attention on the good things in your life is a great way to tap into other positive emotions which contribute to better health, greater wellbeing and longer life. On the other hand, chronic feelings of worry, anger and hostility are linked with high blood pressure and heart disease. So do your body and mind a favour and reflect on what's going right, rather than what's going wrong!
Step 4. Cut back on your sugar intake...and learn some healthier sweet alternatives.
A healthy, nutrient rich diet is great for your mental health. Websites and cookbooks like The Little Green Spoon and The Happy Pear are great places to find some healthy baking inspiration. Cutting back on straight sugar doesn't have to mean all biscuits are banned and you need to deprive yourself of sweets. Rather you can learn healthier ways of making your old favourites. Are you a fan of Brownies? Why not try The Little Green Spoon's Double Chocolate Pecan Bread? The recipe uses ground almonds instead of flour and maple syrup instead of sugar, leaving you more satisfied after a serving whilst cutting down on refined sugar. Or if you want to be really good, The Happy Pear's Honey and Seed flapjack's are packed full of seeds, nuts and berries and taste divine!
Step 5. Hydration is key.
You've heard it a million times before but I'll say it again...drinking your recommended daily allowance of water is vital for a healthy, strong body. Adequate hydration is needed for healthy skin, hair and nails as well as for controlling blood pressure, heart rate and body temperature. Most experts recommend drinking around 8 - 10 glasses a day, which works out at around 2 litres for men and 1.6 litres for women. And the good news is, eating fruit can contribute to your body's hydration, with watermelon being a particularly good source. Oranges, grapefruit and melons factor in highly here as well. Vegetables too can add to your tally, as can a glass of milk or a cup of herbal tea!
Step 6. Carry out a random act of kindness.
Kindness is infectious. When you do something nice for someone else, you can't help but feel good about it. And to top it off you may have brightened another person's day. What's not to love about that! Your RAOK can be as simple as holding the door for a person pushing a buggy/stroller or giving up your seat on the train to an elderly person. This step costs you nothing, yet the reward of happiness is priceless. I would love to hear what your favourite RAOK is...please feel free to share in the comments below or on facebook!
Step 7. Lend an ear/Lean on a friend.
Does your friend seem to be having a bad day? Perhaps they need someone to talk to but don't know how to reach out. Letting them know that you're there for them could take some of the weight off their shoulders and help them feel less alone. Equally, as you may require a little pep talk of your own one day, you may be thankful for the connection you have made with this friend. Bottled up feelings can build and build until you are ready to explode. Chatting to a friend can help loosen the lid of that bottle, even just a little, giving you more room to breathe.
Step 8. Cut yourself some slack.
We all do the best we can with what we are given. And even though we know that no one is perfect, sometimes we still expect ourselves to be. Living up to unattainable standards is not only extremely stressful but it is impossible. So next time you find your inner critic (that niggling voice inside your head) telling you you messed up or you should have done better, tell it where to go and give yourself a break. Perhaps you could reframe the situation...so instead of thinking, 'The boss always asks me to do the tiresome tasks at work, he must prefer Jenny' you could reframe it and think, 'Maybe the boss asks me to do all these tasks because I'm the best person for the job', or perhaps, 'I am asked to do these tasks at work because I'm the newest to the team...my time will come.' There are often a lot of alternative reasons for things that we don't even think about because we are too busy putting the blame on ourselves.
In short - Be good to yourself!